CORDESVILLE -- Brad Harrop can already smell the apple cider he hopes to serve inside the eclectic yet elegant Richmond Plantation manor home just before Christmas next year.
But first, he and other friends will have to raise $375,000 to replace its roof and solve other water-intrusion issues, then hope that successful work triggers a new round of donations for more cosmetic work.
Harrop, a father of six and a manager with Lowe's in Moncks Corner, read a Post and Courier report earlier this year that the Girl Scouts might raze the historic manor house at Camp Low Country, and he decided to act.
He visited the unique architectural landmark, talked to experts about its problems and has volunteered to head up a fundraising drive to fix it up.
"A lot of people say they love it," he said. "In about two months, we're going to find out just how much people love it."
'Not a hopeless case'
Earlier this year, a property consultant for the Girl Scouts visited Camp Low Country and concluded that the historic nature of some of its structures -- including the manor house, a log cabin and a building known as the "Brownie Bungalow" -- would cost too much to repair and maintain so girls could use it.
The buildings were commissioned more than 80 years ago by a Wall Street tycoon, and preservationists say they're unique, particularly for the Lowcountry, and very much worth trying to save.
The most challenging problems can be found at the expansive brick manor house -- and its unusual graduated slate roof.
Hillary King, an architectural conservator with 4SE Inc., studied the home's problems extensively while working on her thesis for a master's degree in historic preservation. She remains drawn to the property, which she noted is in good shape except for its roof and drainage issues.
"It's well within the bounds of being saved pretty easily. It's not a hopeless case," she said. "The main problem with the roof is all of the ridges and dormers have little, if any, flashing. That's where the leaks are."
It has another problem, too, according to roofing contractor Joe Wells, who soon will make some small repairs to buy more time. The house's slate tiles were designed to last about 70 years, and while some were replaced after Hurricane Hugo, many have reached that date.
A done deal?
Harrop says the house needs a costly new roof, but he hopes his fundraising will go viral through Facebook, Twitter, e-mails and other social media and that thousands will chip in a small amount to help save the house.
"I've already got commitments from as far away as California and Arizona," he said.
He says a restored house then could help pay for itself by being made available for weddings, conferences, receptions and retreats when Girl Scout camp isn't in session.
Several of the home's rooms are exotic, and King says there's a lot of speculation -- but unfortunately little hard evidence -- that its most ornate interiors were salvaged from far older homes on the other side of the Atlantic.
"The rumor or assumption is the three most interesting rooms were brought over from England or Europe," she said. "Another story is the beams in the (living room's) ceiling came from a rice mill at Rice Hope plantation when it was torn down."
Harrop and King understand that the Girl Scouts' focal point is not saving old buildings, but they hope their fundraising campaign will convince the organization that its bottom line will benefit by saving the home, not tearing it down.
After all, razing a large masonry home on a concrete foundation -- complete with basement -- would carry a big price tag and leave the camp with a big hole in the ground.
"Its saving grace is it would be a very expensive demolition," King said. "That buys us more time, but the clock is still ticking for sure."
Harrop remains optimistic and likes to emphasize the endpoint rather than the hard work needed along the way.
And that's where next year's Christmas party in the house's living room, complete with the aroma of apple cider, comes in.
Reach Robert Behre at 937-5771 or firstname.lastname@example.org.